Getting down to the short strokes in determining what downtown shoud look like - it will be a challenging exercise.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

November 26th, 2019



On December 5th, city council is scheduled to take a look at The Closer Look they have been asking citizens to take on how we are revising the adopted Official Plan.

What hasn’t been crystal clear until earlier today is whether or not the meeting is a Committee of the Whole, at which delegations are not heard or if it is a Planning and Development Standing committee meeting at which delegations can be heard.

For those who keep a very close eye on what comes out of the Planning department the difference is critical – they have a lot to say about how this Taking a Closer Look exercise has been handled.

Discussion about the re-examination of the downtown policies in the adopted Official Plan will continue at a Burlington City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5 at 9:30 a.m. from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and reconvening at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall in Council Chambers at 426 Brant St. City Council will consider a staff report. Delegations will be heard.

Time lineas of Nov 25

It’s an ambitious time line.

This phase of getting an Official Plan in place that meets the needs of the city and its citizens and can be defended at whichever tribunal a matter gets taken to is critical. Both Council and the city want to get it right.

The team that has been working with the community, as well as liaising with anyone else at city hall who is involved in Planning – this includes the people who are working with consultants on the Interim Control Bylaw that is in place, whatever work that is being done on the Mobility Hubs; there are others.


The process – you are part of it – do your homework.

The December 5th meeting is scheduled to look at the two concepts for each of the 11 precincts that have been created for the Downtown. The two proposed concepts for each precinct are distinct and provide different ways in which to achieve the overall vision.

Figure 5 precinct boundaries

These are the boundaries for each precinct; a precinct is not necessarily one contiguous piece of land. The important part of the precinct is the way it is defined.

This going to be a long long meeting and it is unreasonable to expect the average citizen to understand very much of what has been gathered and distilled by the planners.

The outcome of this work will be modified policies that will guide development in the Downtown until 2031, including the height and density of buildings. The modified policies will be informed by both the public engagement and finalized technical reports.

The policies will be documented in a Final Report prepared by SGL Planning and Design Inc. and will be forwarded to Burlington City Council in March 2020 for their adoption.

But we aren’t there yet.

The next step is hearing what the Planners have determined based on public input to this point.

So what is the public going to be presented with?

It is complex.

The review is limited to the Vision for the Downtown, the Precincts.

City Hall and surrounding area winter of 2000

City Hall and surrounding area winter of 2000

The public’s vision for the Downtown is to provide for a walkable, accessible, vibrant downtown. The public’s vision also stresses the need to maintain and add new green spaces and trees, while providing additional space for year-round activities and festivals. The character of Brant Street as the ‘retail main street’ of Burlington with its eclectic mix of shops, meeting places and culture will be supported and enhanced.

Lakeshore Road as the gateway to the waterfront will be maintained as an important pedestrian precinct to ensure the Downtown’s sense of place is preserved.

What the public will be shown is two different concepts for each precinct with a host of pros and cons for each.  What we have seen so far of those concepts is disappointing but we will leave it to the public to decide if the graphics are of any use.

The inputs

Everyone gets a chance to say what they think; the technical people lay out the facts – YOUR council makes the final decision.

More than a year ago the city set out what the precincts were to be. Now that the Official Plan that was sent off to the Region – which the Region sent back as incomplete and the results of the October 2018 election – a whole new and quite different look has taken place – and there are now new precinct boundaries.

The guiding word at this point is “concepts”; those are what the public is going to see and hear defended by Staff on December 5th.

Those “concepts” gird the development and evaluation of alternative land use and built form concepts.

This Phase 2 work will identify principles, vision and alternative concepts for discussion. The principles and vision have been informed by the feedback from the August public engagement events. The basis for the concepts were then informed by both the principles and by changes to the Precincts.

Are you still with me?

The concepts are to be evaluated based on criteria already in place.

The concepts prepared for discussion are to help inform the development of a preliminary preferred concept plan. The graphic below details how the concepts were developed.

Figure 4 definitions

What are the Themes and Principles?

Glad you asked. The comments heard at the public engagement events were grouped into 13 themes. For each of these themes, a series of Principles were identified. The Principles are action-oriented directions that the City can use to guide change in the Downtown.

These Principles were used to confirm the vision for the Downtown and to develop the proposed concepts. The Principles were also used to develop criteria to assist in the evaluation of concepts.

From the public engagement feedback, it was clear that residents saw the Precincts differently. Their focus was on Lakeshore Road and Brant Street and they differentiated Brant Street between north and south of Caroline Street and also north of the schools and Blairholm Avenue. The Precincts were simplified with a focus on their location and function.

To simplify the precincts and to better align with their intended function, the precincts are proposed to be changed by:

1. Redefining the Downtown Core Precinct into three new precincts: Lakeshore Mixed-Use; Downtown East Mixed-Use; and Mid Brant Mixed-Use;
2. Focusing the Precincts along Brant and Lakeshore;
3. Renaming precincts to focus on location and function;
4. Revising the visions for each precinct;
5. Referring to “Parks and Promenades” and “Public Service” as land uses; and
6. Adding a new park.

Lakeshore Mixed Use Precinct

Brant Main Street Precinct

Neighbourhood Mixed Use Precinct

Downtown East Mixed Use Precinct

Mid Brant Mixed Use Precinct

Upper Brant Mixed Use Precinct

Old Lakeshore Road Precinct

Low Rise Neighbourhood Precincts/ St. Luke’s – Emerald

Apartment Neighbourhoods Precincts

Public Service

Parks and Promenades

The previously defined Downtown Core precinct has been divided into three new precincts – Lakeshore Mixed-Use, Mid Brant Mixed-Use; and Downtown East Mixed-Use.

These new Precincts reflect the public feedback related to the uniqueness of each area and the importance of Brant and Lakeshore. In order to incorporate some of the public comments, the visions for each Precinct were re-visited and updated. Some Precincts were re-named to better express the location of the Precinct, its character and function.

Parks and Promenades and Public Service lands are land uses that are located throughout the Downtown and, as such, have been identified by their land use and not as precincts. Finally, based on the comments received, a new park at Brant and Ghent is being proposed.

It was also necessary to take the following factors into account when developing the land use concepts: existing context; other related City policy; Provincial and Regional policy; and the directions given by Council for the re- examination including specifying 2031 as the planning horizon.

Within each Precinct, there is an existing context of built and approved residential towers, office buildings and heritage buildings that is not anticipated to change before 2031 but which influences the character of the precinct.

Keeping on top of all 11 precincts is a challenge. The Gazette will publish an article on each of the 11 precincts which will be added to this news story.


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6 comments to Getting down to the short strokes in determining what downtown shoud look like – it will be a challenging exercise.

  • WeLoveBurlington

    Don – WLB believes that you have identified the core of the issue and the primary reason why the brakes need to be applied to this rush to develop a revised set of options for Burlington’s downtown. If after the ICBL expires, Burlington is successful in removing the designation of the Anchor Mobility Hub and moving the location of the Urban Growth Centre further north, then the two concepts developed for the Action Labs become redundant. Our fear is that if either of the options are selected for the downtown, then the relocation of the Urban Growth Centre and all else becomes moot. Council will have backed itself into a corner that is inconsistent with the wishes of many of Burlington’s citizens. WLB will be delegating on exactly this point at 9:30 on December 5th.

  • Don Fletcher

    I attended both Action Labs, and the underlying assumptions behind both Concept 1 & 2 seem to be that the Mobility Hub & Urban Growth Center designations for downtown Burlington remain as-is. Does it make sense to proceed on this basis? What would our choice of conceptual designs be if this were not the case, and is this not a more realistic assumption to move forward with based on the majority of residents who voted out our last city council last October?

  • Penny Hersh

    The feeling about these 2 concepts is not necessarily positive. We can either have tall and thin or short and squat development in the downtown. Both do not reflect the vision for the area for most residents.

    Personally, I think that if the “Downtown Urban Growth Centre’ is not moved along with the un designation of the John Street Terminal as an anchor/mobility hub there is no way that residents will have their vision for this area.

    Presently the designation in this area allows for growth. No Official Plan can change this, and what will end up happening is that if the new OP does not meet the Provincial mandates the developers will appeal to LPAT and the City will lose and the development will continue.

    No matter what is said we need an Official Plan that can be defended, and the downtown urban growth centre needs to be moved. This will not be easy, and the Municipality would have to work with the Province to make this happen. It is my opinion that the new council should have started this process as soon as they were sworn in – December 2018.

    The Province never dictated WHERE the growth centres needed to be. This was decided by past councils.

    There has been much confusion on the City’s calendar concerning the December 5th meeting. First it was listed as a workshop for the Planning and Development Committee. Then it changed to a meeting from the Involve Burlington Committee to allow the public to see and hear the planners explanation of the concepts from 9:30-11am. Then it went back to being a regular meeting of the Planning and Development Committee….and delegation is permitted with advance registration.

    Presently both the Planning and Development Committee is being shown on the city calendar from 9:30-4PM, and from 6:30pm for those delegates that cannot make the morning session, and also the meeting from 9:30am-11am from the Involve Burlington Committee to discuss the 2 concepts for the downtown.

    For those of us who questioned just what was happening, we have to thank the mayor for intervening and arranging with clerks to provide the 6:30pm opportunity on December 5th to allow residents that are unable to attend a morning session to delegate.

    After a day of back and forth and multiple city communications that were sent by email to inform residents just what is happening on December 5th, the city calendar at 6:18pm this evening is still not correct.

    What a comedy of errors – this could be a skit on Saturday Night Live.

  • Fred Crockett

    This is all very well and good, but why are we waiting for the glorified bus shelter to be de-listed as a Major Mobility Hub? The real glass shelters on both sides of the street hold more people.

  • Carol Victor

    Is there any reason to feel optimism in terms of what we are going to see? I attended one of the action labs and the walking tour of the city with the planners and now just feel that we have been seduced into feeling that we have a voice in choosing the lesser of 2 evils when Bill 108 has handcuffed us re fighting increasingly high buildings. The overwhelming reaction by citizens is “stop the high rise development”. The developers just go straight to LPAT now so council is not even part of the equation.
    Such is the case with Amica’s huge and non-affordable care facility across from Jo Brant Hospital. It is a worrisome traffic and accident prone location and the complex is double the height of anything nearby…whether it is set back or not, it is still a monstrosity and accomplishes profit only for the developer.
    So disappointing for those of us who really wanted to see reversal of this nightmare.